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Getting Your Health and Safety Policy Right

Your policy is the core element of your Health and Safety management system. It's worth the time to make sure it's right for you, your business and your employees.

When it comes to the Health and Safety policy we have seen the good, the bad and most certainly the ugly. From one page bullet pointed nonsense to hundred pages worth of legal jargon which make your eyes cross. 

Below we explore what a Health and Safety policy is, whilst also give you some pointers on what to avoid.

They are a legal requirement

Yes, having a Health and Safety policy is the law and getting caught without one could land you in some reasonably hot water with Enforcing Bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Section 2.3 if you want to go and have a quick read) each Employer is required to have a suitable and sufficient Health and Safety policy. This is further expanded on in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Section 5 this time) to say that if you employ 5 or more employees then this must be recorded.

So, to summarise, if your business has 5 or more employees and you don’t have a suitable Health and Safety policy then you are breaking the law, which is not a good start.

Avoid templates wherever possible

We aren’t saying that all templates are bad, just that they are not specific. Many people are tempted to buy generic template policies from one of the many cloud based service providers but take a moment to think of this –

There is no “One Size Fits All” answer to Health and Safety and the policy is included in that.

Policies provided by websites and Consultants which are generic templates rarely suit a businesses specific needs. Yes they may cover the basics in some manner, but think about it this way, if a builder, cleaner and small clothes shop owner all downloaded the same document, do you think it would be fit for purpose for all of them?

Make it approachable and easy to understand

This is a big one, and something many businesses still get wrong. There is a common misconception that your policy needs to be filled with anything and everything such as each individual regulation or British Standard and this just isn’t the case.

A policy is your general arrangements for how you approach Health and Safety in your business, not a word for word rewrite of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Remember, this is a document that you need to communicate to your workforce so they understand and work to what it contains. Take a step back and look at things from their perspective for a minute and ask yourself “Would I read this if I were them”?

Keep your policy simple and approachable. Use easy to understand language and short paragraphs that are to the point, avoiding all the legal jargon where you can. Make sure text is broken up and a size that is easy on the eye.

Break it down

There are 3 core parts to a good Health and Safety policy –

  • Statement of Intent (this is your commitment to Health and Safety and must be signed by the most senior person in the company such as the Owner or Managing Director)
  • Organisation (who is responsible for which areas of Health and Safety in your Business)
  • Arrangements (these cover the actions you will take to implement your commitment in your Statement)

Make it a live document

A good Health and Safety policy will be treated as a live document that evolves alongside your business. If it gets lost to a shelf somewhere gathering dust then it isn’t going to be of any benefit to you or your workforce.

Review your policy regularly to make sure it is still fit for purpose, such as –

  • When you introduce new plant or equipment
  • Change or introduce new working practices
  • At regular intervals (at least annually)
When you update your policy make sure to communicate it to everyone in the business and explain what the changes mean.

Get help when you need it

It may be that you look at writing a policy and decide you need help, such as making sure it covers the right areas in the business. That’s where we can help by working with you to learn your business and prepare a Policy alongside you that reflects your day to day activities and how you address each are of Health and Safety.

Our policies are developed from scratch and have a unique colour coded system to highlight the core areas for responsibilities making them easy for your workforce to read and understand. We then take the time to sit with you and your team to make sure that you understand and adopt the policy into the business.

As an extra help, we have put together the A4 page below about what you need for your Health and Safety Policy.

If you need support with Health and Safety in your business, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Orchard Compliance Solutions team on 0800 118 1674 or You can find more information on our range of services here.

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